CHAMPCAR/CART: New Michigan Mercedes facility

Mercedes-Benz Report: Ilmor Consolidates And Breaks Ground For New Michigan Headquarters CART Online (October 8) -- The home of Mercedes-Benz's 1997 CART championship-winning engines is moving with Ilmor Engineering, the ...

Mercedes-Benz Report: Ilmor Consolidates And Breaks Ground For New Michigan Headquarters

CART Online (October 8) -- The home of Mercedes-Benz's 1997 CART championship-winning engines is moving with Ilmor Engineering, the race engine-building arm of Mercedes-Benz, set to build a 26,000 square-foot technology center in Plymouth, Michigan to centralize its American engineering and business management activities. The announcement was made this week at a groundbreaking ceremony at the site.

The new facility, which will serve as the technical headquarters for Mercedes-Benz's championship-winning PPG CART World Series program, is expected to be erected by mid-1998 and fully operational by the start of the 1999 PPG Cup season.

"The construction of the Ilmor Engineering Technology Center shows our commitment to the Mercedes-Benz Motorsport program and to CART racing," said Paul Morgan, who started Ilmor with partner Mario Illien in Brixworth, England in 1984. "Ilmor was founded as an Indy car racing technology company when CART was still quite new. By 1990, the series' competition and professionalism had increased to such an extent that we felt it necessary to establish Ilmor Engineering, Inc., here in the United States to better service our partners and more closely manage our business in this country. Today, with Mercedes-Benz as a 25-percent shareholder and fully committed partner, we are ready to take the next step in our planned expansion."

Situated in the town of Plymouth, Mich., 9 miles west of Ilmor's current offices in Redford and 20 miles west of downtown Detroit, the new Technology Center will include administrative offices, an engine assembly/rebuild facility, three dynamometer testbeds and a machine shop. For the first time, Ilmor's American engineering and business management activities, as well as its parts and service departments, will be under one roof. Engine assembly and rebuilds were formerly performed at VDS Racing, in Midland, Texas.

"The people at VDS Racing, under the guidance of Franz Weiss, have done an outstanding job for us in the area of engine assembly and re-builds," said Paul Ray, vice president of Ilmor and the man in charge of the CART program. "But we knew the time would come when the level of competitiveness in the series and the magnitude of the program would require us to bring the engineering side of the business together with the parts and service side for the sake of efficiency. We initially looked at moving the engineering staff to Midland (Texas, where VDS is based) but decided that the Detroit area was a better choice, due to its proximity to the core of CART's activities."

Ray explained that VDS will continue to serve as the Mercedes-Benz race engine assembly and re-build facility through the end of the 1998 PPG Cup season, at which time the new engine shop should be on line. Every member of the VDS staff has been offered employment at the new facility.

The Penske Racing engine shop, which handles engine assembly and re-builds for Marlboro Team Penske, will be unaffected.

Campbell/Manix Assoc., Inc., a contracting and architectural firm based in nearby Southfield, Mich., designed the building in conjunction with Ray and the Ilmor staff. It will be built on a 5.5-acre parcel of land adjacent to Michigan State Route 14 and could, according to Ray, eventually house some of Ilmor's manufacturing facilities, which are currently based at the parent company's headquarters in England.

"Experiences in Brixworth have taught us to anticipate growth," said Ray. "The site for the Technology Center was chosen and the plans were drawn to allow for expansion of this facility to three times the size of the initial structure."

As the race engine-building arm of Mercedes-Benz, Ilmor Engineering designed, manufactured and serviced the engines which powered nine race and six pole position winners during the 1997 PPG Cup season, earning Mercedes this year's CART Manufacturer's Championship.

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